January 8, 2013

Mars One Plans 2013 Search for Astronaut Candidates (Source: Mars One)
In 2013 Mars One will conduct a global search to find the best candidates for the first human mission to Mars in 2023. On Mars, the primary responsibility for the astronauts is to keep everything, and everyone, up and running. This will be a particular challenge for the first teams. They will need the skills to solve any potential problem - some of which will be completely unforeseeable. Their combined skill sets of each team member must cover a very wide range of disciplines. The astronauts must be intelligent, creative, psychologically stable and physically healthy. On this page, we offer a brief introduction to the basics of our astronaut selection process.

Mars One is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to establish a human settlement on Mars through the integration of existing, readily available technologies from industry leaders world-wide. Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavor by involving the whole world as the audience of an interactive, reality-style televised broadcast of every aspect of this mission, from the astronaut selections and their preparations to the arrival on Mars and their lives on the Red Planet. Click here. (1/8)

For NASA, Not Flying Into Space Means It Has Too Much Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Just before Christmas I had an opportunity to visit with Ellen Ochoa in her corner office on the top floor of Building 1, which commands a view of the sprawling Johnson Space Center campus. A four-time astronaut, Ochoa is  the new center director for Johnson Space Center. We had a pleasant talk about the center’s future after a difficult couple of years. Ochoa inherits a center that has lost one-quarter of its budget ($6 billion, annually, to $4.5 billion) and a commensurate number of staff following the end of the space shuttle program and other changes as NASA.

Then, a few days after we spoke, the Orlando Sentinel published a story about how Kennedy Space Center in Florida is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the facilities used by its space-shuttle program. Among them, the newspaper reported, were Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the  Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, Hangar N, the launch-control center; and so on.

This is a process has in fact already played out, to a lesser extent, in Houston. In late 2011 Johnson Space Center announced a deal to share a large pool where it trained astronauts for spacewalks with with Petrofac Training Services, a global oil services company with an office in Houston. You can read more about this in a story I wrote a year ago after taking a dip in the four-story deep pool. The deal allows the space center to recover about 5 percent of the $20 million needed annually to keep the facility open. Click here. (1/8)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Announces New Members (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced that several companies have joined the organization. “The Commercial Spaceflight Federation board voted unanimously to approve the new members, all of which are leaders in commercial spaceflight," said chairman Stu Witt. "As the industry grows, it becomes even more important to have a strong, united voice for pro-commercial policies and programs.”

Joining as Executive Members are Boeing and Paragon Space Systems, and joining as Associate Members are Firestar Technologies, Golden Spike Co., and Spaceflight Services. Click here. (1/8)

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks Gets Leadership Spot on House space subcommittee (Source: Huntsville Times)
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, will be vice chair of the House subcommittee that oversees NASA including its operations at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Brooks will be vice chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The subcommittee has oversight over NASA, the National Space Council, national space policy, commercial space activities, and international space cooperation, Brooks' office said today. (1/8)

Arianespace in 2013: 10 Years of Uninterrupted Launch Success, Innovation and Employment (Source: Arianespace)
After an especially successful year in 2012, Arianespace is gearing up for the New Year with the constant aim of further strengthening its world leadership in the launch services market. With 53 successful launches in a row, Ariane 5 closed out 2012 on a high note, marking ten years of uninterrupted success. This is an extraordinary level of reliability, largely unrivaled in the launch industry.

The launcher logged perfect countdowns throughout the year, ensuring on-time launches and clearly reflecting the skills and commitment of the people who produce and operate Ariane 5. Arianespace's family of three launch vehicles performed ten launches in a year from the Guiana Space Center for the first time in 2012: seven by Ariane 5, two by Soyuz and one by Vega. Arianespace set another record as well, sending nearly 75 metric tons into orbit.

This remarkable technical, industrial and commercial success is the result of a strong political commitment that has allowed Europe, at the initiative of France, to deploy a truly world-class space industry. Since being founded in 1980, the contracts won by Arianespace, especially in export markets, have generated some 15 billion euros for the European space industry. The ten launches carried out by Arianespace last year, for example, generated sales exceeding 1.3 billion euros, a 30% rise over 2011, for income at the break-even point. (1/8)

Space-Simulation Study Reveals Sodium Rhythms in the Body (Source: EurekAlert)
Maintaining the right sodium levels in the body is crucial for controlling blood pressure and ensuring proper muscle function. Conventional wisdom has suggested that constant sodium levels are achieved through the balance of sodium intake and urinary excretion, but a new study in humans reveals that sodium levels actually fluctuate rhythmically over the course of weeks, independent of salt intake. This one-of-a-kind study, which examined cosmonauts participating in space-flight simulation studies, challenges widely accepted assumptions that sodium levels are maintained within very narrow limits. (1/8)

Titan's Hydrocarbon Icebergs Could Contain Life (Source: Daily Mail)
Saturn's moon Titan is home to lakes of massive hydrocarbon 'icebergs' that could form exotic forms of life, scientists have claimed. NASA researchers say the new theory may also explain bizarre reading from the vast lakes and seas on the moon. 'One of the most intriguing questions about these lakes and seas is whether they might host an exotic form of life,' said Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University.

Titan is the only other body besides Earth in our solar system with stable bodies of liquid on its surface. However, while our planet's cycle of precipitation and evaporation involves water, Titan's cycle involves hydrocarbons like ethane and methane. Ethane and methane are organic molecules, which scientists think can be building blocks for the more complex chemistry from which life arose. (1/8)

FTC Narrows Issues Toward Approval of GenCorp Purchas of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (Source: SpaceRef)
GenCorp has received a modification to the request for additional information ("Second Request") from the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") in connection with the Company's proposed acquisition of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies Corp. The modification excludes large and medium liquid rocket engines for launch vehicles and spacecraft from the scope of the FTC's investigation of the proposed acquisition. United Technologies has received a similar modification to the Second Request letter it received.

At this time, the FTC's investigation of the proposed acquisition is limited to the Liquid Divert and Attitude Control Systems ("LDACS") businesses of the Company and United Technologies. The Company is in the process of preparing its LDACS business for sale to facilitate an expeditious completion of the FTC's investigation. Completion of the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including required regulatory approvals. The Company expects the acquisition to close in the first half of 2013. (1/8)

Boeing Discusses Use of SLS for Robust Lunar Program (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket continues development for its debut mission in December 2017, the Boeing company has identified several exploration architectures that would be enabled by the superior capability of the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) - ranging from missions to the Moon, through to expeditions to Mars.

Capitalizing on the express capability of the SLS launch system to provide space-based access to areas beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Boeing has identified several exploration architectures that will provide a base for a set of space exploration missions between the 2020 and 2040 timeframe. Specifically, Boeing points toward large mission parameters and vehicle characteristics that will enable humanity to achieve and realize a step-by-step approach toward the creation of reliable and cost-effective access to the lunar surface. Click here. (1/8)

Curiosity Scrubs a Mars Rock Clean (Source: Discovery)
It's a clean sweep for Curiosity -- literally! NASA's newest rover on Mars has recently used its Dust Removal Tool for the first time, clearing away a patch of rust-colored dust coating its latest target: a slab of rock called "Ekwir_1." The Dust Removal Tool, or DRT (yes, the rover's cleaning instrument is called "dirt") is a motorized brush with stainless steel wire bristles located on Curiosity's multipurpose Robotic Arm turret -- a veritable Swiss Army knife of planetary exploration tools. (1/8)

Time for a World Space Policy (Source: World Policy)
Over the past half-century, we have seen a number of countries pursuing their ambitions of space development. Most recently, China has been flexing its national muscles with a robust space program. The very nature of space exploration suggests that cooperation ought to trump competition, however. While we create borders and boundaries to separate ourselves on Earth, the astronauts, humanity’s representatives “out there,” have had difficulty seeing these divisions.

Instead, they have perceived a beautiful whole, a “spaceship Earth” moving through the universe at a high rate of speed, carrying its crew on a great adventure. I have called this experience “the Overview Effect.” The message of the Overview Effect is clear: “we are all in it together,” as many astronauts returning from orbit have said. For this reason, we desperately need to apply “overview thinking” to life on Earth. This does not mean that we should abolish all nation-states, but we do need a unifying principle, a way to organize all the diversity on the planet into a whole systems approach to “planetary management.”

What, then, does overview thinking tell us about exploring outer space? First, it does not tell us to abolish national space programs, any more than it tells us to abolish nations. In fact, we may see a higher level of innovation if we have 50-100 separate space exploration efforts reflecting the diverse cultures that have arisen on Earth. Click here. (1/7)

ATK to Develop Solar Array for Israeli AMOS-6 Satellite (Source: ATK)
ATK's Space Components Division signed a contract with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to provide the solar array to power the AMOS-6 (Affordable Modular Optimized Satellite). The solar array is ATK's heritage Planar Unfolding Modular Array (PUMA), which has demonstrated low non-recurring engineering cost, low risk, ease of satellite implementation, and 100-percent flight success performance on more than 50 solar array wings on-orbit. (1/8)

Space 2013: Boeing to Tackle 13 Commercial Crew Milestones (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Boeing Company has a big job ahead in 2013 in the development of its seven-person CST-100 spacecraft. The company is scheduled to complete 13 milestones out of a total of 19 as part of the NASA funded Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP) program. Boeing completed the first three of its 19 milestones last year for $126.9 million. The company is scheduled to complete an additional three milestones during the first four months of 2014. Click here. (1/8)

Formerly a Skeptic, Governor Gives Spaceport Her Support (Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
Gov. Susana Martinez gave an enthusiastic speech in October to a yearly gathering of the “who’s who” in commercial spaceflight, touting the jobs Spaceport America could create and its potential to inspire young minds. “It is with great foresight that New Mexico has chosen to invest in the commercial space business,” she told the group. “And when I say New Mexico, I mean taxpayers have chosen to invest.” Her eagerness seemed a far cry from the skepticism she showed soon after taking office in early 2011. The change of heart illustrates an ironic reality midway into Martinez’s four-year term. (1/7)

Anybody Out There? Scientists Think So (Source: Go San Angelo)
It seems likely that there are quite a few Earthy planets out there capable of hosting alien life of some sort, maybe intelligent alien life. We'll probably never know about that in our lifetimes, because it takes radio and television signals as long as light to travel across space. What they see and hear may or may not inspire any neighbors to get in touch. (1/8)

Our Staggering DOD Budget: We Have a Military Spending Problem (Source: Washington Post)
The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. [Click here.] Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But now that those wars are ending and austerity is back in vogue, the Pentagon will have to start tightening its belt in 2013 and beyond.

If you want to argue that our current deficits are the result of overspending, then the military budget and the wars need to be the center of your analysis. Yet the Republican budget doesn’t envision big defense cuts and the 2012 Republican nominee for president sought large increases in defense spending.

Editor's Note: Here is a chart I shared last week comparing U.S. military spending and the funding assigned to non-military science agencies, including NASA. The budget for NASA seems far too small to accomplish the nation's space exploration goals--goals that clearly contribute to national economic and technological security. But NASA is unlikely to get a substantial increase, despite the fact that the needed funds could be found between the cushions in a Pentagon couch. (1/7)

Bigelow Aerospace Signs Space Station Module Deal With NASA (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace and NASA have signed an agreement that could see an inflatable module attached to the International Space Station. The deal is reported to be worth $17.8 million for preliminary work on the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). This would be an inflatable addition that would prove out technologies for future space facilities, including Bigelow’s own commercial space stations. Click here. (1/7)

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